Playlist, September 2012

It’s a no-brainer to consider arranging Antony Hegarty’s lush, meditative pop for a fullorchestra, but to actually do it is feat.

Antony and the Johnsons
Cut the World

It’s a no-brainer to consider arranging Antony Hegarty’s lush, meditative pop for a full orchestra, but to actually do it is feat. Recorded with the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in 2011, Cut the World is a memento to grandeur, to be sure, but never veers into the Wagnerian bombast that might tempt anyone else blessed with access to a full symphony. The best pieces come from The Crying Light, signaling the touch of avantclassical composer Nico Mulhy, who worked on the original album. Bill Murphy

Neneh Cherry and The Thing
The Cherry Thing
Smalltown SuperSound

In her first release in 13 years, Cherry’s vocals tear through a vibrant, often chaotic, and always entertaining avant-garde adventure with Scandinavian jazz trio The Thing, who take their name from a piece by Cherry’s father, world/ free-jazz trumpet great Don Cherry. Energetic and extravagant, the collaboration—a collection of covers and original tracks—illustrates how perfectly things can gel with just three instruments, extraordinary talent, and personal connection. Craig Dalton

Shawn Lee
Synthesizers In Space

On Shawn Lee’s umpteenth album, the prolific multi-instrumentalist/ producer sounds like he recorded aboard a spaceship while tripping on acid. Space is the central theme, but it is the percussion element that drives the album—rather than the implied keys of the title. Lee floats, gravity-free and hallucinating, around his selfcontained studio, picking up random objects and turning them into percussion instruments. Whether it’s via shakers or synths, Lee will send you into orbit. Lily Moayeri

Dan Deacon

Dan Deacon can change sonic topography violently, but his third album surveys a coherent horizon rather than dives off a cliff. The composer has never explored oscillator ensembles and mallet patterns with more unity. Opening with five empowered motorik pop songs, the album culminates in a 21-minute suite melding 22 players and waves of hypnotic stasis. For every circuit’s grainy squelch, there’s melodic orchestration; ring modulation and cartoon-colored syncopation weave within legato vistas. Tony Ware

Dirty Projectors
Swing Lo Magellan

As willfully way-out as David Longstreth tends to get with his avant-pop melodies, his songs with Dirty Projectors always possess an underlying sensibility that’s familiar, gripping and bittersweet. Swing Lo Magellan has its moments of self-indulgence—the de-tuning electric guitar of “Maybe That Was It,” for example—but the title track, with its dusty attic sound, is three minutes of folk-rock genius, while the opener “Offspring Are Blank” tackles hard psychedelia and layered vocals with a Lennon-like vengeance. Bill Murphy

Michael Kiwanuka
Home Again

Although at the low end of his 20s, Michael Kiwanuka has aged two decades on his debut, Home Again. The British folk-souljazz singer/songwriter’s vintage vocal style is over-polished to perfection under Band of Bees’ Paul Butler’s production chops. Brushed drums, supercrisp strings, and immaculate woodwinds smooth out Kiwanuka’s already neutral sentiments. One almost wishes a mishap on the affable fellow, just to give him some edge. Home Again’s graceful, angle-free sounds work wonderfully, but for environmental purposes only. Lily Moayeri

Yellow & Green

Emerging within the Southern post-hardcore metal vanguard (Mastodon, Kylesa, Torche), Savannah, GA’s Baroness sloughed off much roughly hewn sludge/ speed-metal snarl by 2009’s Blue Record. Increasingly progressive in the psychedelic sense, this third album, a double LP, is a tidal listen that bellows without growling, and is as headier as it is heavy. The expansive mix is bass-anchored, overlaid with pulling leads deluged with tone, but never too saturated to obscure melodic flares and dissonant lucidity. Tony Ware